Regarding circular economy, Shelley Harris, IPP’s commercial director, asks if COP27 is a charm offensive or ‘COP-out’. With only 9 per cent of the global economy deemed to be circular, she calls on businesses to take a lead in the circular transformation.
When it comes to reducing the impact of climate change, what a year 2022 has turned out to be. It is a very different world we live in now compared to the environmental optimism of just one year ago.
Just 12 months ago this week, COP26, staged in Glasgow, saw developed nations pledge to manage their emissions to an agreed 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, a calculated formula that would prevent irretrievable damage to the planet.
Now, as we prepare for COP27 in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh (6-18 November), we have seen the first war in Europe this century and a cost-of-living crisis which has seen unprecedented pressure on energy supply and demand and industrial-level rowing back from the commitments made in Scotland last year.
In recent months we’ve seen everything from the weaponisation of gas supply to the suspension of green energy tariffs on our fuel bills, the granting of new exploration licences for North Sea oil and even the re-introduction of ‘fracking’ measures in the UK, albeit a temporary policy under Liz Truss’s record-breaking short tenure in No 10.
I’m no mathematician, but all these measures, fracking aside, would push temperature levels dangerously over the 1.5C agreed limit.
The political optics don’t look good either. The jury is out as to which UK statesmen will go to COP27, with even a suggestion that King Charles, a staunch advocate of greener solutions, has been advised by the government not to attend. Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak, the new PM, argues that the UK’s domestic economic emergency should take priority over his own presence in Egypt.
So what was COP26 all about? Was it all just so much hot air filling the Glasgow Conference Centre?
The 1.5C limit should not be a pipe dream we can simply abandon when the going gets tough on the domestic front. There are only so many times we can say this is our last chance to reverse global warming.
It’s not just up to governments, though. In fact, business is better at taking the lead in controlling emissions through the use, reuse, repair and repatriation of raw materials, allowing the slowing of climate change. This way, the rapidly-melting Arctic Circle could be saved by a widespread adoption of circular economy practices.
Sadly, only about nine per cent of the global economy is currently engaged in the circular economy. But simply overhauling something as fundamental as the supply chain could have a profound impact on the climate. For example, this could be through reducing the number of unnecessary journeys – so-called ‘empty running’ – which not only reduces a business’s carbon footprint, but also saves time and cost.
This is not Sunakonomics or Trussnomics, but what we call ECOnomics in our business. It also explodes the negative narrative that green practices cost businesses, when in reality the opposite is the case when viewed in the round, or indeed the circle.
All of the arguments around suspending the green levy on energy bills – namely that we can’t afford them – should be replaced by businesses pushing back and arguing that that we can’t afford not to have measures that help us shift from a dependence on fossil fuel to more long-term sustainable solutions.
If, for whatever reason, politicians do boycott COP27, there is a natural platform opportunity for businesses to fill the void and put the commercial case for more circular economies. Let’s move away from climate change denial on the Nile, to launch a ‘Sharm offensive’ to re-claim the optimism of Glasgow 2021.